Sometimes the store has sliced up smoked pork shanks, which don't look too appetizing but are brilliant soup starters:
2 sliced pork shank pieces (frozen, thawed, who cares?)
Five cloves garlic
1 to 1.5 cup beans (I like the white ones with the black eyes), rinsed and sorted
2 bay leaves
4 whole cloves
Place the shanks in a soup pot and add water to cover by about 3 inches (aka 2 or 3 quarts).
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Skim off the inevitable scum and discard.
Add the beans, garlic and spices and simmer until the beans are tender, about 1.5 hours (depends on the beans. If you soak them ahead of cooking, they will be done earlier.)
Make rice, and serve with the beans!